About this project
Many of you know our films Dont Look Back with Bob Dylan, The War Room chronicling Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign, and Startup.com shot during the Internet’s first boom and bust. These are stories about passionate people who took risks that changed history. We believe our new film, Unlocking the Cage, is just such a story. For the past two years we have been following an animal rights lawyer, Steve Wise, who is attempting to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans.
You might have recently read about Steve and his organization, the Nonhuman Rights Project. This past December they ignited a media frenzy when they filed the first-ever lawsuits demanding limited animal personhood rights for four chimpanzees in New York State. Tommy, a 26 year-old former film actor living in a garage on a used trailer lot, became their first plaintiff.
What is animal personhood? It’s a way of transforming an animal from a thing with no rights to a “legal person” with irrevocable protections. When Steve helped pioneer the study of animal rights law – he was also the first person to teach it at Harvard Law, in 2000 – he grappled with how the law could better protect animals, especially cognitively complex ones like great apes, elephants, dolphins and whales. He was inspired to pursue animal personhood after watching countless animals fall victim to lax welfare laws and regulations that do not keep animals out of abusive environments like medical testing centers and zoos. It’s an unprecedented legal challenge, but as Steve says “it’s time to begin.”
The December lawsuits were the first major step towards animal personhood, and they were a surprising victory for Steve and his team. The lower court judges were sufficiently impressed with their legal arguments to hold oral hearings and then direct the lawsuits up to the Appellate Courts for a decision on animal personhood. Steve is presenting his cases to the Appellate Court this fall.
Although we have captured the dramatic events leading up to this historic moment, the story is not over. We need to be there for Steve’s ultimate challenge this fall. We also want to film with the scientists who contributed affidavits on chimpanzee behavior that are crucial to Steve’s case. And we want to hear the owners’ side of the story, and see if the chimpanzees are declared legal persons and given a new life at sanctuaries.
We hope that by exploring Steve’s lawsuit and illustrating the legal and ethical questions it raises, Unlocking the Cage will contribute to the evolving debate about our society’s relationship to animals and, more importantly, why we should protect them. We are very excited about this project. It’s a personal story of a man with an uncompromising need to change the system, a story that we want to tell from start to finish. Please join us and help make it happen.
Chris Hegedus, D A Pennebaker - Directors
Frazer Pennebaker, Rosadel Varela - Producers
Julia McInnis - Associate Producer
This Film Is A co-Production With The BBC
Our Recent New York Times Op-Doc for Unlocking the Cage
CAN I GET A TAX DEDUCTION FOR MY DONATION?
CAN I GIVE MORE THAN 10K?
Donations on Kickstarter are not tax deductible and you can't give more than 10K here. BUT....never fear! You can make a larger or tax-deductible donation through our 501(c)(3) partnership with Living Archives. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and they'd be very happy to help you out with that.
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE RAISE MORE THAN OUR GOAL?
That would be fantastic because we actually need to raise much more than $75K in order to do the following:
Production and Film Shoots: Some of these shoots will be multi-camera, some will be out of the country and all will be a week or more:
- Filming the scientists in possibly Japan, Europe or North America who contributed affidavits to the lawsuits.
- Filming with the plaintiffs and their owners.
- Filming Steve and his team in three separate New York State appellate courts.
- Filming Steve and his team as they strategize their next steps with the current cases and new suits to be filed in the United States and around the world.
Research footage Archival footage Music Rights
Editing & Post Production:
While we're editing some of the footage as we film, the bulk of the editing will come after the Steve’s appeals this fall. Then there will be studio costs for audio mixes and video on-line and color-correction.
We would also like to be able to do some animation for any court scenes we were not permitted to film.
I’M REALLY EXCITED / FASCINATED / ENRAGED / BAFFLED BY THE IDEAS IN YOUR FILM - HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT IT?
Easy! You can:
- Follow Unlocking the Cage on Twitter and Facebook. We'll be posting the latest updates there as well as here on Kickstarter.
- Share our campaign video with all your friends!
- Visit the Pennebaker Hegedus Films website where you can send us a message.
The Pennebaker Hegedus DVDs you can choose from are listed here in our web store. Additionally, we have Dont Look Back, Monterey Pop, Kings of Pastry, The War Room, and Unlocking the Cage (available mid/late 2015).
Risks and challenges
Following a real-life drama is full of risks and this film is no different. We don’t know where the story will end up, or what will happen next, or if we’ll get access to people or events. Through the decades of making our films we have come realize that none of it is easy but we have learned how to work around these challenges. To quote James Carville in THE WAR ROOM, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” We believe in this story and we will do everything we can to make the best film we know how and it will be done - but only with your help!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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